The Graben (German: Trench) is one of the most famous streets in Vienna's first district, the city centre. It begins at Stock-im-Eisen-Platz next to the Palais Equitable and ends at the junction of Kohlmarkt and Tuchlauben. Another street in the first district is called Tiefer Graben (deep ditch). It is crossed by Wipplinger Straße by means of the Hohe Brücke, a bridge about ten metres above street level.
Graben as a Marketplace:
The Graben has served as a marketplace from the very beginning. Already in 1295, shortly after the Graben was first named in documents, a fruit dealer was mentioned. The selling of cabbage began around 1320, and other vegetables were introduced around a hundred years later. These products lent the Graben the additional names of Grüner Markt and Kräutermarkt. Beginning in the 14th century, flour and bread sellers are also mentioned. In 1442 the bakers were granted permission to sell their own wares.
The so-called Brotbänke, which the bakers were required to rent, originated on the Graben. The Paternostergässchen was occupied by the Paternosterer, makers of rosaries. Beginning in 1424, butchers are also mentioned in treasury documents, which strictly regulate their opening hours. According to a decree issued in 1564 by Ferdinand I, the butchers were to be moved on account of their offensive smell, but the law did not meet with full compliance. In the 18th century the commercial activity was pushed increasingly into the outlying buildings, and in 1753 the last-remaining market (the vegetable market) was shut down.
Graben as a Festival Site:
On account of its location and size the Graben was particularly suitable for festival processions. Fronleichnamsprozessionen (processions on the occasion of the Feast of Corpus Christi) are first mentioned in 1438, but probably took place even earlier. With the arrival of Protestantism, these processions played a particularly important role in the demonstration of Catholic faith. During the era of Emperor Charles VI, daily masses were held at the Pestsäule. In the 18th century processions took place nearly every week, but this was curtailed by Empress Maria Theresa. Finally, Emperor Joseph II forbade all processions save the Corpus Christi.
The Graben also served as a site for triumphal processions, in particular for the arrival of Archdukes and Emperors. It is known to have also been the site of the public displays of homage, at which the notables demonstrated their reverence for the rulers. Such displays are first mentioned in 1620, in the era of Emperor Ferdinand II.